National Geographic : 1948 Apr
(' Chicago Aerial Survey ('o. Where the Illinois (Right) Joins the Main Stream, the Mississippi Is Still Clear Water Twenty-three miles below the confluence, the Missouri empties its chocolate current, and thereafter the Father of Waters is a muddy yellow. Here clashing currents have dumped silt, forming five wooded islands, one partly cleared for farming. On the right, Highway 100 leads through Grafton, Illinois. St. Louis friends came aboard to visit and later took us ashore for a delicious steak dinner. That night aboard the old show boat Golden Rod we saw a performance of "The Drunkard," that perennial favorite of showboat audiences. Chester, Illinois, and Cape Girardeau, Mis souri, provided us anchorage on succeeding nights. Down we dropped toward Cairo, Illi nois, where the Ohio joins the Mississippi, at the beginning of what is called the Lower Mississippi River. At that point we would be 530 miles from home. The serene, uneventful days became a cause of complaint to the boys; they pined for some outright excitement. "Shucks," said Tommy, "there's nothin' to it. I thought there would be some big waves or sumpin'." "Don't worry, son," said his father. "We aren't to New Orleans yet." The river was higher than normal for the time of year, about 15 feet above mean low water. Above Dogtooth Bend, 150 miles below St. Louis, where the river is about a mile across, there is a wide turn, and the sailing line of the dredged channel follows the outside bank. Tom was steering. "Hey, Rex," he called, "the river's pretty high. What say we cut across over the tow head? It'll save a couple of miles." According to the charts, there were sandbars and towheads in the bend at low water, but, with the river at 15-foot stage, we should clear them easily, I agreed. Our pontoons drew only about a foot and a half of water, though the propeller extended another foot below them. Tom veered her to port and we started across the cutoff. Suddenly we felt the propeller chewing sand, and, before we could move, Meanco lurched to a stop. We were aground! Our position wasn't good: nearly two tons of raft rammed on a hard sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi River half a mile from shore-no place to lighten ship.